Let’s protect the female foetus and women

As an advocate of women’s rights, it is outrageous that various groups and individuals have spoken out against tightening laws on gender-based abortions. Today, MPs will vote on whether to amend the serious crime bill to make abortion based on foetal gender a crime.

In light of the debate, headed by Tory MP Fiona Bruce, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) are arguing that tightening laws on sex-selective abortions could ‘divide communities’ and could put women at risk of domestic abuse if they kept the female foetus against the will of their husbands.

Firstly, there is already a divide among communities because gender-selective abortions occur predominantly within certain ethnic communities. Last year, it was reported that illegal abortion widely used by some UK ethnic groups to avoid daughters had reduced the female population by between 1,500 and 4,700.

Once again, as with the Rotherham child sex abuse, justice is not being carried out for the fear of seeming racist. Which makes you wonder: does the TUC really care about community cohesion or are they afraid to speak out against ethnic minority communities?

Another question is, can a criminal consequence be used as an excuse to not prevent a criminal act?

Let me explain. The TUC are not the only group arguing that tightening the laws on sex-selective abortions will result in greater domestic violence against women. According to an article in The Times, health experts and women’s rights groups are arguing it ‘could put vulnerable women at risk’.

In all of these counter-arguments against the illegalisation of gender-selective abortions, a case is being made to protect ‘vulnerable women’ from domestic abuse.

Domestic violence is clearly an issue, but it should not be treated as purely a symptom of the refusal to carry out a sex-selective abortion but in isolation to it; because any form of violence against women is wrong. Why are we having one for another – why are they choosing to protect women from domestic abuse in return for killing a female foetus?

Thus, I reiterate my question: can a criminal consequence be used as an excuse to not prevent a criminal act?

Furthermore, the argument that women will be at risk if the bill is amended presumes that all women are with violent men; and that men from ethnic minorities are likely to commit domestic abuse.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, told Labour MPs that sex-selective abortions are already illegal under the Abortion Act so new legislation is not needed and that it could inadvertently outlaw abortion in cases where there are ‘gender specific abnormalities’. But, it is clear that gender-selective abortions do happen, and something needs to be done about it.

Another case against tightening the laws is that doctors may not want to carry out abortions for fear of breaking the law. It is questionable as to how doctors could prevent female-foetus abortions and how it will be monitored. But it does need to continue to be measured and prevented.

I do not know whether groups are fearful of seeming racist and because entering this debate opens up a realm of cultural and social values belonging to various ethnic communities that our MPs, TUC, and other groups feel that cannot challenge.

As a woman from an Asian background, I am speaking up to anyone who fears seeming racist. There are many cultural values that we need to challenge such as the dowry. The dowry is one of the reasons why female-foetus’ are aborted – because girls are costly. We need equality in marriage.

We also need to challenge the idea of passing on a business to sons instead of believing daughters have a right too – and this comes part and parcel with abolishing the dowry. My granddad is an example of someone who treats his son and daughters equally as he shares all of his belongings equally.

I am aware that cultural norms are difficult to challenge especially when coming from an ‘outside’ position. But actually, it is not an ‘outside’ position at all because we are all working together to make lives better for women. And we should all be working together to protect both a female foetus and women. There is no need to protect only one when we can protect both.

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